Bee venom

Le venin d’abeille

Charlemagne cured his attacks of gout with bee stings… or so it is claimed. Nevertheless, the use of bee venom as a therapeutic means is attested by Hippocrates, Celsus and Galen, thus well before the gout of the famous emperor. 

It was in 1914 that Terc, an Austrian doctor and beekeeper, born in Bohemia, began his first experiments. Suffering from rheumatism, Terc was astonished to see his pain diminish after being stung by bees. He established a relationship of “cause and effect” and, for more than thirty years, he experimented with this venom on several hundred rheumatic patients, creating a new medical science: apitherapy.

Treating “products of the hive”, it is impossible to ignore this therapy, especially since apipuncture (the learned name of the treatment by bee stings) is, it seems, taken more and more seriously. However, one must remain cautious. If honey, royal jelly, pollen or propolis are free of toxicity and do not present major contraindications, neither alone, nor used as an adjuvant to other therapeutics, it is not the same for bee wine. 

Several authors, however, do not seem to take this into account and advise, without any caution, venom-based treatments to combat this or that rheumatic attack.

This is why it seems important to quote the following lines borrowed from Dr. J.-P. Bonimond and published in the Revue Française d’Apiculture (n°366, 1978, p.67): “If one wants to use venom for therapeutic purposes, one must be aware that a certain percentage of subjects are allergic or sensitized to it. It is only after having had the certainty that the harmlessness of a treatment by bee venom is real and constant, that this one can be undertaken: all the more so as it will be a question, in the envisaged cases, of a long-term apitherapy.

Even if accidents are relatively rare (and fortunately they are), it is important not to take lightly risks that can be serious. Some allergic reactions to bee venom can result in breathing difficulties, lung oedema, etc. These signs of anaphylaxis – the inability of the body to protect itself against the aggression – are most often serious, even very serious. This is the reason why caution seems to be necessary, since none of us, before being stung, knows his reaction to bee venom. There is obviously a therapeutic arsenal to combat allergic manifestations (adrenaline, anti-histamines…).  In any case, it seems eminently advisable, if you have had problems of this kind, even minor ones, to consult a doctor to proceed with desensitization.

It is obviously not the intention to ignore or reject the therapeutic applications of apitherapy. It is important to emphasize the possible dangers of a treatment carried out without prior knowledge of the risks involved. Health is – also – a matter of prudence. As this is a product that implies strict rules of application, it is necessary to think that it is advisable to take medical advice before undertaking this form of therapy.

“The rose is not without thorns, nor the bee without a sting.”
“The sweetness of honey does not console the sting of the bee.”

excerpts from La Santé par le miel by Jean-François Chèzeries (LDP)